The Hippocratic Oath No Longer Used

The Hippocratic Oath No Longer Used
Bust of Hippocrates

In the past, the Hippocratic Oath was a sworn agreement made by medical students when they became doctors. It includes a promise “to share knowledge, to help the ill and not cause harm, and to never give a deadly drug or help another to use one.” Hippocrates (460 to 370 B.C.), a Greek physician known as the “father of medicine,” was concerned with the methods and ethics of medical treatment.

Hippocrates lived at the same time as Socrates, who extolled the doctor. He was in a clan known as the Asklepiads, devotees of Asklepios, a Greek god of health. They swore to the gods to keep themselves “pure and holy,” help the sick, and avoid “wrongdoing and harm to patients.” They vowed not to breach patient confidentiality, perform surgery for which they had not been trained, cause an abortion, poison, euthanize, or sexually abuse a patient.”

The Hippocratic Oath appeared in a collection of some 70 texts called the Hippocratic Corpus. By the 10th century, Christians had replaced Greek divinities in the Hippocratic Oath with the God of the Bible, and medical schools used that version until modern times. By the early 20th century, that began to change. In 1928 only 14 of 79 medical schools required their students to swear the Hippocratic Oath. No medical school in America requires it today.

In recent years, the ethics of medicine has become a major issue. Special interest groups like “Compassion and Choices” advocate for physician-assisted suicide. Laws in several states now allow doctors to prescribe lethal amounts of drugs for use in suicide.

Is the morality of a doctor important when you or a loved one are in declining health? What is the difference between a doctor who believes the body is the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 3:16) and one who believes in survival of the fittest? This is a significant issue for all of us dealing with end-of-life issues, as all eventually will.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Bring Back Hippocrates” by Dr. Lydia S. Dugdale, a physician and ethicist at Columbia University in New York, in the Autumn issue of Plough Quarterly.

Lightning Dynamics and St. Elmo’s Fire

Lightning Dynamics

As an old physics teacher, I am interested in lightning dynamics. Most of us have seen the effects of lightning and have been impressed with its power and destructive potential.

The question is, what produces lightning and its incredible power? On Earth, lightning is caused by water. If you have a steady stream of water from a faucet and bring a charged glass or plastic rod near it, the water stream will move toward the rod. The water molecule is polarized, meaning it has a positive and negative end. The charged rod attracts the oppositely charged end of the water molecule.

When warm moist air rises to form a thunderhead, it can reach velocities of 100 mph. The air cools and forms ice crystals that can become positively charged by collisions with other ice crystals. That means the lower parts of the storm cloud will acquire a negative charge. Conversely, the very bottom of the cloud will generate a positive charge as a result of the negative sections of the cloud. When this charge imbalance becomes great enough, an inch-wide stream of electrons travels between the negative and positive areas. This can be between the two layers of the cloud, the negative midsection and positive bottom of the cloud, or the ground and the positive lower parts of the cloud. This stream of electrons typically moves at 200,000 mph.

Lightning dynamics can heat the air around the stream of electrons to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, turning oxygen into ozone and sending out a shock wave which we hear as thunder. A tall object like a tree, a church steeple, or a lightning rod will accumulate a charge because it is closest to the charged cloud. Sometimes charges around the tall object will cause the air to glow in what is called “St. Elmo’s Fire.” That name is credited to a monk who first recorded seeing it at the top of his church and thought he was having a vision.

Lightning dynamics are very complicated and not a threat to humans unless we are careless. However, lightning has various benefits, such as producing nitrogen fixation so that plants can grow and resupplying the ozone layer, protecting us from some of the dangers coming to Earth from outer space.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Seconds count when lightning is spotted” in The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Indiana, August 13, 2022, page C3.

Wormholes, Black Holes, and the Beginning

Wormholes, Black Holes, and the Beginning
Wormhole Illustration

One of the strongest arguments for God’s existence is the fact that all evidence indicates that there was a beginning to the creation. Space and time are not eternal. If the creation began, there had to be a cause for space/time. The only way to avoid that is to show that space/time is eternal. The classic atheist argument is that if God has always existed, it is just as valid to claim that space/time has always existed. One way to support the view that space/time is eternal is to suggest that tunnels called wormholes exist between black holes in the cosmos.

The idea is that wormholes would allow matter/energy to fall into a black hole in one area of space and re-emerge in another part of space. By falling into a black hole, the conservation laws of science and the laws of thermodynamics would be invalidated. Physical laws, entropy, and all other boundaries would start over when the matter/energy emerged at the wormhole’s other end. All matter/energy in the cosmos would experience these changes through an infinite number of wormholes, and since the laws of science would be re-established, this could go on forever. In essence, this is a new version of last century’s oscillating universe theory.

Science fiction writers have used this idea as a way for aliens to quickly travel anywhere in the cosmos. The distances between galaxies are in the millions of light years, so traveling even at the speed of light would take millions of years. If wormholes connected the galaxies, you could take a shortcut traveling instantly from one galaxy to another. This is an imaginative proposal, but the evidence doesn’t support it.

If every galaxy is connected to other galaxies by wormholes, we should be able to see matter/energy emerging from every galaxy we observe. If the wormhole were in empty space, you would see white holes where this would be happening. We don’t see any such objects anywhere. Instead, we see black holes and even have photographic evidence of their existence. However, the nature of a black hole is that matter/energy falls into it and is compressed smaller and smaller to an infinitely small point. Nothing comes out of a black hole by any process.

Scientists speculate that ultimately, all the matter/energy in the cosmos will fall into one supermassive black hole and be destroyed. That reminds us of the words of Peter in 2 Peter 3:10-12, “The elements will be dissolved.” There was a beginning, and it was caused by God, an entity outside of space/time, and there will be an end.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Endothermic or Ectothermic – What’s the Difference?

Endothermic or Ectothermic – What’s the Difference?

You are an endothermic mammal. That means your body’s metabolic rate controls your internal body temperature. We describe that condition by saying you are “warm-blooded.” Many life forms on our planet are “cold-blooded” (ectothermic) because the environment controls their internal body temperature. The limitation of being cold-blooded is that it requires warm environmental temperatures. Ectothermic life forms can’t survive in polar areas. Endothermic life can survive almost anywhere.

During the time of the dinosaurs, the planet was very hot. That means biological systems, including plants, grew quickly. Those conditions were part of God’s preparation of resources that humans would need, including oil, coal, topsoil, and oxygen. However, the geologic record shows a point in Earth’s history when the climate radically changed. 

As the entire planet cooled, areas at or near the poles became too cold for cold-blooded life to exist. Studies of bone growth rates and oxygen isotopes in ancient bones indicate a rapid change. This change would not be a problem for warm-blooded animals but would reduce the number, size, and activity of cold-blooded life forms.

The challenge would be to design living creatures that can translate food into enough internal heat to survive in a cold environment. Science News reported on studies of the inner ears of reptiles and mammals. In warm-blooded animals, the inner ear fluid is less viscous, requiring that the ear canals become smaller. As a result, fossils show a sharp change in inner ear morphology at the time when Earth’s climate became colder. 

Many other changes were required for life to go from ectothermic to endothermic. However, the inner ear structure is preserved in the fossils, making it useful for scientists to study the history of life on Earth. The complexity of endothermy reminds us again of the words of Psalms 139:14, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works.” In our time of changing climate, the design of life continues to show the wisdom involved in life’s creation. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Science News August 27, 2022, page 9, and Nature.com

Our Planet is Unique and Bizarre

Our Planet is Unique and Bizarre

Human technology has allowed more observations of our planet than most of us realize. NASA currently operates around 30 Earth-observing missions accumulating massive amounts of data. We know about changes in sea level for the Earth’s oceans within a fraction of an inch. Hourly, we can know the areas of our planet covered with snow. We measure the amount of tree cover on Earth and minute-by-minute changes in the planet’s atmosphere. The result of all this detecting and measuring is that we know that our planet is unique and bizarre.

Earth is the only planet we have seen with an active water cycle that causes weather and allows the recycling of water resources. It is also the only known planet with active plate tectonics, recycling minerals within Earth’s crust using earthquakes and volcanoes while releasing volatiles that create and maintain our atmosphere.

We have only recently understood the Moon’s role and how important it is for life to exist on Earth. We know that it was formed in a catastrophic impact that determined its location and size. The size and distance from Earth are precisely right to cause the strength of our tides and give our planet a stable 23.4-degree tilt. Without the Moon, our Sun would cause very weak tides causing our coastlines to be much different, while the planet’s axis of rotation would wobble, destabilizing the climate.

Our planet is unique and bizarre because it has been shaped by vegetation, responsible for the atmosphere’s oxygen content of 21%. The typical astronomical atmosphere of planets is dominated by methane and carbon dioxide. Photosynthesis uses sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce the oxygen we breathe. Science is still struggling to understand the source of the massive amount of minerals we have on Earth. Meteorites have a small number of minerals, and while the Moon has a larger number, Earth’s variety of minerals is astounding.

Discover magazine featured an article discussing NASA’s studies of planet Earth. It stated that Earth observations have taught scientists one sure thing: “Our planet is unique and bizarre, with unusual properties that don’t match those of any other world we’ve seen, either in our own solar system or beyond it.”

For those of us who understand the science involved and believe in God as the creator, this is no surprise. Proverbs 8 finds “Wisdom” saying, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way …” We see that beautifully demonstrated as we look at our planet and marvel at the intelligence of the Designer who produced it.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Earth is a Planet Too!” by Alison Klesman in the September/October 2022 issue of Discover magazine.

Dead Sea Scroll Fragments Missing

Dead Sea Scroll Fragments
Dead Sea Scroll Fragments on Display

The first Dead Sea Scrolls were accidentally discovered seventy-five years ago. Ever since that time, archeologists, biblical scholars, and politicians have struggled for control of the scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls disprove claims made by many atheists and skeptics who deny the accuracy and authenticity of the Bible. Unfortunately, however, there are a substantial number of missing Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

The fall 2022 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review reported that missing Dead Sea Scroll fragments include a large fragment from a Samuel scroll and three fragments from a Daniel scroll. There are more than 1,000 others. They have either been stolen, destroyed, misplaced, or possessed by someone who does not want them to be available to scholars and the public. Fortunately, scholars photographed some of the missing fragments before they disappeared.

Thirty years ago, Hershel Shanks, a well-known author and publisher, campaigned to get the people controlling the scrolls to make them available to scholars and the public. Tens of thousands of scroll fragments have been discovered, and most scholars have still not gained access to the ones known to be in repositories, not to mention the missing Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

This situation reflects negatively on the state of archaeology in the world today. Competition among archaeologists and biblical scholars has morphed into an attempt to control who has access to these artifacts. This conflict involves national interests, professional reputations, and grants. The religious beliefs of some archaeologists are also a factor.

Hopefully, the missing fragments will eventually be found, and all of them will be made available to everyone who should have access to them. These scrolls verify much of the biblical record and answer many of the challenges of those who oppose Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Missing: Have You Seen These Scrolls?” by Arstein Justnes and Signe M. Haegeland in the fall 2022 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review

Struck Blind – How to Keep Things in Perspective

Struck Blind - How to Keep Things in Perspective
John 9:1-41

I have learned in my long life that every experience, good or bad, can teach you a lesson if you allow it to. I think this is why Paul gave Timothy qualifications for congregational leadership that a young man simply couldn’t have had time to experience. They included having children in subjection, not being a novice, and having a good reputation in the community (1 Timothy 3:4-7). I know that the death of my two younger brothers, my wife, and my son in a short period of time taught me a lot about life. It taught me how to keep things in perspective and help those facing the death of a loved one.

Now I have been taught about another struggle that humans have–blindness. In the Bible, we see the loss of sight as a major affliction that altered the lives of biblical characters. In some cases, like Samson, enemies used blindness to retaliate and punish (Judges 16:21). In John 9, Jesus restored a blind man’s sight to teach and confound His critics. Several miracles of Christ were centered around restoring sight to someone who was blind.

I recently got a taste of what it would be like to lose my sight. I awoke on August 25th, unable to see out of my right eye and with only limited vision in my left eye. No amount of rubbing or washing affected my loss of sight. It is hard to describe the panic I felt, and you can imagine what my prayer life was focused on at that point. With what little sight I had left, I painfully struggled to grade the day’s correspondence courses and managed with great difficulty to prepare two classes and one sermon I was scheduled to give in four days. In addition, trying to read a large number of emails was difficult, and I kept asking myself, “What will I do if this gets worse?”

I now understand Paul’s reaction as he suddenly was struck blind and had to be led by the hand. I can imagine how for three days, he tried to make sense of what had happened to him. I didn’t want to eat, which Paul also experienced, as dread, anger, and confusion swallowed up my appetite. But, like Paul, I was led to a restoration of my sight. Like Paul, it has changed my view of life and my mission on Earth. Once again, it has shown me how to keep things in perspective.

My medical diagnosis is that I have a very rare kind of cataract that can grow in a matter of days. Thankfully, surgery can correct it. However, living with virtually no vision for several days has taught me a great deal. I now understand why my son Tim who was blind from congenital cataracts, mentally challenged, and rendered physically challenged by COVID, could only talk about soon being able to see. He would soon see his mother, who had passed away years before. He understood that he was about to die, but that paled in the face of regaining his sight.

I better understand why my dear friend Glynn Langston, who has been blind from birth, struggles with my very visual presentations. He tells me that my verbal descriptions don’t help much. I can understand why Samson after his enemies blinded him, had the courage to tear down their building ending his own life.

What has happened in your life that may have been a tragedy to you but can open a door of empathy and give you a unique opportunity to serve others? What has helped you learn how to keep things in perspective? God is constantly molding our character, and life’s experiences are the tools He often uses.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

The Cost of Raising a Child

The Cost of Raising a Child

The Brookings Institute writing in the Wall Street Journal reports that the average cost of raising a child from birth to age 17 has risen 9% over two years ago. The cost of raising a child is now $310,605 to feed, house, and provide primary care after birth. When you add to that the birthing cost, it becomes apparent that it is out of reach for many young couples and especially for young unmarried women. 

In our materialistic and selfish society, many people are unwilling to sacrifice to spend that kind of money. That means they will push for an abortion, or they will neglect the child’s basic needs if the baby is born. Even worse, some parents pay the $18,271 a year cost of raising a child but resent it and let the child know they resent it. In my 41 years of public school teaching in South Bend, Indiana, I saw the consequences of kids facing physical, mental, and spiritual neglect.

Like many things wrong with society today, the problem is with the religious convictions of many adults. What is the result if you are convinced that humans are the product of blind mechanistic chance and don’t view a child as a unique creation of God with value and importance? You will not devote the resources or energy to ensuring your child is fully equipped to deal with life’s challenges. 

The biblical plan for raising children is time-tested and proven to work. Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 warn fathers, “…provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” God’s plan calls for protecting children as a product of love. The cost of raising a child is more than money. A child must be treasured and nurtured not only in secular matters but in the knowledge of their value and spiritual nature. 

Kids are searching for adults who will value them as they are. Unfortunately, the gender changing and promiscuity of our young people today are a product of the failure of adults to be willing to pay the cost of raising a child, including financially, emotionally, and spiritually. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Week for September 2, 2022, page 16.

Mauna Kea Wekiu Bug

Mauna Kea Wekiu Bug
Mauna Kea Volcano Observatory

We have frequently pointed out the importance of recycling agents in the natural world. They are creatures that take waste material of any kind and process it so that our planet is not inundated with excrement and dead bodies. The microbes that process dead material and produce soil, the dung beetles that handle excrement, and the vultures that eat carrion are among those recyclers essential to our environment. From the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory comes a recent discovery of another recycling agent to handle waste most of us would not even know existed. It’s the Mauna Kea wekiu bug (Nysius wekiuicola).

In 1980, scientists on Mauna Kea in Hawaii discovered the wekiu bug that handles natural waste on the summits of mountains where it is too cold for life to exist. At these extreme elevations, the jet stream, typhoons, and other sources of high elevation winds deposit the dead bodies of insects and birds. Instead of those bodies piling up, the Mauna Kea wekiu bug processes them. It’s a beetle whose name comes from the Hawaiian word for “summit.” This bug is specially designed to process mountaintop waste.

The wekiu bug has a straw-shaped mouth that it inserts into a dead insect or bird, allowing the bug to draw out any fluids or nutrients. That leaves the hard parts, which crumble and are carried away by rain, snow, ice, and wind. Even in this very inhospitable area for life, with frequent temperatures well below freezing and no surviving plant life, these bugs process organic material. The Mauna Kea wekiu bug is another example of God’s design to provide balance in nature. He created a natural system designed to allow the constant reprocessing of organic materials so that our planet can support an abundance of all kinds of life.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The PBS series of Planet Earth for 2022 and Wikipedia.

Natural Insect Control by an Insect

Natural Insect Control by an Insect - Praying Mantis

People struggle with many insects that give us diseases, impact our food supply, and even damage our clothing. Mosquitoes, locusts, grasshoppers, cockroaches, crickets, and the like have been a scourge prompting the use of pesticides. The pesticides, in turn, have brought cancer and attacks on our immune systems. Yet, we often overlook the fact that God has given us natural insect control by providing agents that eat insects, including birds, bats, fish, and even insects. One insect-eating insect that looks like it came from another planet is known to entomologists as “Mantis religiosa” but is commonly called the praying mantis.

The mantis has bulging eyes and a triangular-shaped head that swivels atop a long neck, giving it an odd extraterrestrial look. It is the only insect with three-dimensional vision. It holds its two front legs at an angle as if folded in prayer while actually poised to ambush prey. Those forelegs are armed with spikes so that when they capture an insect, it cannot escape.

Humans introduced the praying mantis from Europe into New York state in 1900 to control grasshopper infestations. Mantises are voracious eaters and can even be cannibalistic. Their population is partly controlled by eating each other when the food supply becomes reduced. Females sometimes eat the males and the egg capsules when there is a food shortage.

A mistake humans have made is using chemicals to control insect populations instead of using the natural controls God has given us. Spraying massive amounts of insect-killing chemicals kills everything, including insect-eating birds, fish, and insects like the praying mantis. We often hear people blaming God for the diseases and afflictions humans have caused.

The more we study the creation, the more we see natural insect control agents. They may require work and a more significant time investment than the easy process of spraying, but they cause far less collateral damage.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: The Spokesman-Review for 8/30/22 page A01 by Linda Welford and Wikipedia